What is dementia?
The term 'dementia' describes the deterioration of brain function, that can result in loss of memory, reduced language skills, impaired memory and reduced daily living and social skills. This can include behaviour and emotional problems.
Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse. Treatment can help, but this condition can't be cured. Medication and therapies may help manage symptoms.
How fast dementia develops depends on the individual. Each person is unique and will experience dementia in their own way.
Symptoms of dementia include:
Loss of memory - for example, forgetting the way home from the shops, or being unable to remember names and places, or what happened earlier the same day.
Mood changes, parts of the brain that the disease can affect are the ones that control emotions. People with dementia may also feel sad, frightened, or angry about what is happening to them.
Communication problems - over time, these include a decline in the ability to talk, read and write.
Caring for someone with dementia can be rewarding and can also be difficult, exhausting, lonely and overwhelming. It can be frightening and confusing for children and explanations about what is happening are important:
- try to be as honest as you can
- explain that the person is ill and might act strangely or be forgetful
- reassure them that it is not their fault, especially when the person becomes frustrated or aggressive
- encourage them to ask questions so you can understand what they may be concerned about
- encourage them to still spend time with their relative, if it is safe to do so
- focus on the things the person can still do and not on what they can't
- find activities they can still do together e.g. playing cards or things they have done in the past.